When we announced our first pregnancy, after “Congratulations”, the first thing my dad said to me was “Don’t let yourself go”. I brushed off the comment: I would be fine.
But while I hoped for one of those magical pregnancies where your belly is the only thing affected by the weight gain, by week 6 of the pregnancy I became disconcerted that every part of my body – even my hair – seemed to be pregnant. I quickly realised weight would be a constant issue for me: not so much the amount of weight I gained – I was reassured this was healthy. The issue was in the way I felt about my body and its ever-increasing size.
It became apparent that the effort of trying to hold on to my pre-pregnancy self would be more of a challenge than the birth itself. In the first trimester, I couldn’t even enter the kitchen without dry retching. Subsequently, anything that would go in my mouth without immediately coming out again was considered a worthy item on my food pyramid.
My attitude became one of resignation: the whole child-rearing thing would be better for everyone if I relaxed on food front, and by consequence, the body front. The baby could have a party, do his thing, and I would clean up the mess afterwards.
This all sounds very neat and tidy. Neat and tidy, it was not. I still wrestled with my appetite, weight gain and self-image just as I always had. I avoided mirrors and being in photographs, sang along to the hymnbook of elasticized clothing and tried not to socialize with new people. If I did meet someone, I would always have on the tip of my tongue, “I’m not usually this fat …” The result: we have a billion photos of our son as a baby, but only a handful of the woman behind the camera. And she is wearing the same stretchy, stripy top in every one of them.
When I was in labour with First Born, I still didn’t want to let go. All I could think about was being split into two. My insides would become my outsides, and I would be forever broken. If I let myself go, I would be gone for good.